"ghost orchid" is the name of the bonus track that is only available to those who preorder the new dream into dust CD, so beautiful and so dangerous.
it's a bittersweet acoustic/electronic song originally intended to be on the album. inspired in part by the film 'Adaptation', a ghost orchid is a very rare and hard to find flower. making it only a digital download makes it similarly ephemeral, while limiting its distribution to dedicated fans and supporters makes it as rare as its namesake.
the title ties in with the running theme of flowers throughout the album. the arrangement uses acoustic guitar, tying it to the songs "end of memory" and "flowers of destruction". it also contains electronic sounds similar to those used in "counterfeit". a deceptively pop-like center and shimmering shoegaze-like walls of guitar bring it along the lines of "secondhand daylight" while additional synth hooks may be reminiscent of "perfect vision". the lyrics also contain a reference to that song.
in a sense, the song encapsulates the sound and themes of the whole album. it addresses the passion of searching for (or even finding) something so beautiful and rare, and the danger inherent in losing yourself to that passion, or in losing that rarity.
in the end, it was left off the album because it flowed better without it, but it's still a worthy song with strong ties to the album's themes.
because there's a 2-week delay before we get the funding to press the CD, and several people asked if they could use paypal, or didn't have $ before now, i'm offering a paypal-only preorder until march 29th, 2012.
during this period, the 14-song digipak CD will still come with the 4-color card insert with download code for a "ghost orchid". postage is included in the USA and canada, but other countries must add $4 for shipping (cheaper than actual shipping cost).
i used to look forward to album releases. the feeling of anticipation when opening up the package, whether from the store or the mail. when i'd get it, i'd excitedly rip open the package, even if i was in transit. i could up the cover and look at the artwork, read titles and lyrics. if i didn't know the songs yet, i'd read the words as poetry and look forward to how they'd actually sound.
sometimes i'd even set aside time to do nothing by sit or lie down and listen to the entire thing all the way through the first time i heard it. it really is a great experience, closing your eyes or staring into space and letting the music and words hit you with no other distractions.
i've mentioned in the past that my favorite album of all time is pink floyd the wall. i don't strive to live up to or sound like that album, but it is a goal to shoot for in terms of something worthy of uninterrupted attention. it also contains songs that in themselves may be enjoyable, but a bit short, and make much more sense in the context of the whole album played in order.
the interesting thing about our new album. however, is that while its order is carefully chosen and tracks are faded into one another, whether you play it like that or on shuffle, you'll be hearing a variety of styles. everything is brought together by the voice, writing, and a few similar sounds. but it is also our most diverse.
hopefully this will lead to a core reason anyone bothers to make albums: that it's something interesting and varied enough that you can listen to it again and again.
the kickstarter campaign is over, but you can still pre-order until march 29th using paypal here.
i previously wrote about working with bryin dall in general terms. now that the new album is finished, it's easier for me to see the subtle but ultimately huge effect he had on the music.
bryin is always quick to point out that dream into dust is my project, and downplays his own input. however, he adds his own sound and brings objectivity to the process. we've worked together for years on many different projects, our tastes overlap, and we influence each other to a degree, but we come from different backgrounds and points of view. it keeps things interesting.
the most obvious effect of bryin's presence on the album is the guitar feedback. he's a master of this, whether using multiple effect pedals or just overloading the natural sound of one of his vintage tube amps. at times he will also use his infamous technique of playing with a machete. people may be surprised to know this isn't just onstage showmanship, but done for good sonic effect. with it, he creates noises that sound as if they're slicing through the speakers. at other times, his distortion shrieks, divebombs, or sputters.
a less obvious, but still very audible contribution is all the other strange sounds he makes with his guitar that don't sound like guitar. again, he creates these live in the rehearsal room - there's very little studio effect processing on his sounds, other than at times to add a stereo effect or a bit of echo to make it fit in the mix better.
another of bryin's influences on the new album is his love of old analog synthesizers. i'd always been fascinated by them, but only owned a few over the years (gearheads and synth geeks, read this previous post for more details). bryin had them in his arsenal long before it became hip, and could do things with some of them equivalent to his guitar noisemaking. at times he combined the two by using a guitar synthesizer, where a guitar controls and mixes with a synth to create tones neither could get alone. besides that, i got to play with his synthetic arsenal myself and ended up picking up some of my own along the way.
on "counterfeit", as well as the title track, "so beautiful and so dangerous," bryin got to exercise one of his other talents: overprocessing rhythm tracks. he takes drum loops and runs them through a variety of destructive computer effects, with little regard for "proper engineering", until we end up with a dizzying array of choices. sometimes i would then chop up the results into beats with even less resemblance to the original source. they're then reassembled to fit the song, and accented with additional individual drum hits.
he also helped clarify my voice on some songs through similar unorthodox processing methods. as a result, it's the loudest and clearest on any DID release, even when the surrounding music is intentionally overwhelming.
very often as i worked on a mix, he'd sit back, a few feet away, listening objectively, making suggestions, or jumping in and fixing a problem. his very presence is motivating, and his willingness to sit there for hours a night over the course of several years makes me extremely grateful.
to hear bryin's incredible noises, check out the album trailer video. preorder before march 29.
i actually played bass before i played guitar. it's an instrument i listen to a lot on recordings. i rarely think of it as just the low notes in the chords, something to hold down the bottom end or double the other instruments. it's got its own character in the music.
that's why it was a privilege to work with mario padrón on this album. he's absolutely a better bassist than i am by far, which is one reason there are song-by-song instrument credits on the CD booklet. i wouldn't want to take credit for his superior playing on tracks he wasn't on. even in cases where i wrote most of the bassline, he added his own transitions and notes. but most of all, he added his own tone and feel, which are things you can't replicate.
mario must have gone through at least four different basses during recording. he was constantly trading up to something better or more interesting. he used both 5- and 6-string basses, one of them fretless (on "secondhand daylight"). with all this variety, special attention was paid in mastering to the bass. mario's playing definitely resonates, especially if you have good headphones or speakers.
he also distinguishes himself by the stylistc range he displays on the album. he's capable of playing delicate, halting passages in songs such as the album's finale, "flowers of destruction". in both that song and "end of memory", he mixed his live tone with a triggered bass synthesizer. he stretched himself in both improvisation and texturing during the jam sessions that yielded the 5 instrumental pieces. and on "deaden the pain", he plugged two effect pedals straight into the board and proved he could lay down some serious metallic doom.
that last song i'm especially grateful to him for. i had a title and a feeling, and a desire for the song to be slow and heavy. we'd all jammed together with one of bryin's beatboxes on something drenched in doom and atmosphere but no direction. the very next rehearsal, mario plugged his bass in and out of nowhere started playing a riff off the top of his head. it was perfect, and that became the basis for the song. it may never have been finished if not for him.
to hear mario's excellent playing, check out the trailer video and pre-order so beautiful and so dangerous until march 29th using paypal here.
scott reiter is a criminally underexposed synthesist and sound engineer. he lurks in the studio, crafting sounds in headphones for hours. when he's been onstage, he's generally behind stacks of synthesizers and rack gear, or on the side, doing monitor mixing for some of the biggest names in music. in the past, i've hired him to mix live sound for dream into dust shows.
scott is as elusive as his playing style. he almost always plays keyboards with one hand while the other is changing his sound or tweaking an effect box. he's constantly pushing the envelope of what a piece of gear can do or what a sound can be. what's more amazing is that often he does this in a melodic way.
the best way to capture scott is either while he's jamming with a band, or just letting him go off on his own, and recording without telling him. he's certainly capable of writing great musical parts, but left to his own devices, he is like no other keyboardist i've ever heard.
although he did use a digital/sample keyboard on the new album, scott's weapons of choice are often his korg ms-10 or sequential circuits prophet-5. sometimes he ran these through an adrenalinn to add an extra layer of madness.
as a result, scott's musical voice is probably most dominant on the new album's 5 instrumental pieces. his textures morph from one sound into another, creating soundworlds and then changing the landscape around you. however, several brilliant snippets also became part of other songs throughout the album. the ghostly chorus rhythm in "suspended in fear"; the plaintive wails, sputtering glitches, and epic strings in "end of memory"; lush synthetic washes in "flowers of destruction". he aslo wrote the basis for the intro of "so beautiful and so dangerous", and was the strongest voice in cutting additional section out of "counterfeit" to make it leaner and meaner.
scott's musicality is a huge supportive factor in the album. he may not step out to the front of the stage much, but his musical presence looms so large, you'd definitely miss it if it wasn't there.
to hear scott's amazing sounds, pre-order so beautiful and so dangerous until march 29th using paypal here.
the main joy of having your own recording space is what you can have on hand to use at a moment's notice. the new album has a broader palette of sounds than before because more of it was worked on in the rehearsal studio, which also has a recording setup.
previous dream into dust albums were mainly recorded in my home studio, "elsewhere" (shown above). it was originally my intent to just do a few overdubs with other musicians in the rehearsal space and return home to finish them off. but once the album got into the group environment, it increased in scope. for one thing, we had the ability to record live as a band to separate tracks, a technique most obviously put to use on the new album's 5 instrumental pieces.
the studio began as rehearsal space for bryin dall's old band, loretta's doll, and morphed to include a recording component and easy-acces playground of bizarre instruments. over the years, it's been the center of activity for 4th sign of the apocalypse, a murder of angels, and our soundtrack work for the ballad of genesis and lady jaye, among many others.
bryin's collection of analog synthesizers easily made their way into the sound of the new album. i've always loved them, but used to prefer sample manipulation to synthesis as a basic building block. not anymore. i got to use the roland SH-101 and jupiter-8, sequential circuits pro-one, and ended up buying my own juno-106(though technically a digital synth, it has analog filters that fatten the sound). bryin played his ionic performer, cat and kitten.
the other great thing about using a studio is being able to be loud whenever you want. this comes into play when using electric guitars and amps, which happened a lot more on this album than before. there were at least two different tube amps used (vox and selmer), several different distortion and chorus pedals, and i've lost count of the number of different guitars and basses that ended up on the songs. whatever sound was in my head, or if i was at a loss, i could look around and pick an instrument that might hold the answer.
of course, some of this cornucopia of choices turned out to be discarded, but being able to pursue an idea to its conclusion was great. it was also time-consuming, but in the end i think it was worth it for the range of sounds we were able to capture on the album.
to hear pieces of about 5 of the 55 miniutes that make up the new album, see the trailer video, and pre-order so beautiful and so dangerous until march 29th using paypal here.
audio mastering is one of those stages of releasing recorded music most people aren't aware of. it's always been an important stage, but even moreso with the increasing use of recordings done on home equipment, or anything not involving a knowledgeable audio engineer.
with the advent of affordable recording technology came a lot of musicians (such as us) getting creative on their own time instead of paying by the hour. but that savings can come at the cost of sound quality. untrained people operating lower-end gear has created great artistic results, but also some sonic problems.
the making of this dream into dust album has been no exception to that. it's been an incredible learning experience, but also a long and difficult one. even once a song is mixed down, it may turn out to have sounds lurking that cause problems on some sound systems. these could be things meant to be heard that end up too prominent or disappear, or unheard artifacts that keep the music from sounding louder, or even damage the speakers.
generally, the job of a mastering engineer is to take a final mix, keep its overall original sound, but accentuate or de-emphasize certain frequencies to bring out the best in the track. for an album, the other goal is to make sure all the tracks sound somewhat similar in terms of volume and tone.
adrian morgan is an independent mastering engineer with his own studio, timeless mastering. he formerly worked at sterling sound (one of the biggest and best mastering houses in the US). he uses both analog and digital gear, like we did when making the album. while working in digital offers sonic clarity and the ability to save your work in progress, analog brings warmth and depth to sound.
this additional step makes a world of difference. there were supportive friends saying the album sounded so good it didn't need mastering. but the fact is, recordings get heard in context with other recordings, not just the hermetic environment of a song or even an album. mastering helps bring the volume and tone to a point of reasonable comparison. it's an added expense, but totally worth it.
to hear the final results in their entirety, see the trailer video and pre-order so beautiful and so dangerous until march 29th using paypal here.
the kickstarter campaign to fund the release of the new album is underway.
part of the reason the album didn't come out last year is lack of money. kickstarter offers a way to raise both money and awareness of an upcoming project, possibly to a wider base of people than the usual channels.
the great thing about it for backers is there's no risk. you can pledge using a credit card, but you're not charged until the campaign is over and the project meets the goal. if the project doesn't get fully funded, no one is charged. if it's successful, the money is paid through an amazon account to ensure the promised rewards get delivered to everyone.
this seemed like a good opportunity to reintroduce a few items from the back catalogue. independent promotion and distribution is difficult, so the results can be uneven. i know there are some people who thought the lathe of heaven was the first release. others weren't aware there was anything out since we were on elfenblut (misanthropy records' non-metal label).
there are also other releases and t-shirts, as well as framed and signed prints of my original photography offered as rewards for donations.
the campaign will run until march 15 2012.
until then, share the video above and the link below if you want this to succeed. thank you.
p.s. the title of this post comes from the lyrics to "counterfeit"
the video for "bruises never fade" came about on the spur of the moment. as the album release date kept getting pushed back, it seemed time for another video. a more ambitious one has been in pre-production, but delayed. this song seemed the next likely candidate.
i can't be on both sides of the lens, but i don't know any actors. i'm used to shooting inanimate objects for my art photography. so i thought i would use backgrounds, composition, and a human figure to get feelings across.
the figure i used is a visual artist who goes by the name grey heart. she was willing to let me shoot her and give her minimal directions, with the understanding that she was being used as a visual element more than an actor.
the song itself went through a few developments, the most significant one being my realization that it didn't need any melodic guitar (as detailed
in an earlier post). i also wanted it to have a slightly distorted, overloaded quality, so the vocals were pushed a bit too hard, and bryin added layers of synth and guitar noise, including an amazing loop that sounds like some wounded beast sobbing. finally, i added the sound of glass crashing backwards in slow motion underneath the chorus.
sonically, there was a slight problem with the original bass guitar, which disappeared on smaller speakers such as laptops and phones - a common problem these days. so the version in the video actually has a replayed synth bass. although it gives the song a colder, more electronic feel, i'll be glad when the album is out so people can hear the original.
the new album is essentially finished, and has been for a few months. the only things to work out at this point are the special packaging and the mastering.
as i've mentioned in earlier blog entries, the engineering aspect of recording has been one of the bigger issues faced. the music is often a delicate balance of sounds and textures that may not easily fit together. it's been a long learning process figuring out mixing tricks and sweet spots.
the goal has been to make an album that not only surpasses our own past work, but also stands up both artistically and sonically to some of my favorite recordings. although we've done a lot towards that end ourselves, for that final step, we need professional mastering.
i've learned a lot about how to make things sound better than they ever have before. but there's a certain objectivity and knowledge that a professional engineer can bring. every major release of ours has been mastered, and the difference between the final mixes and the mastered version has been significant and definitely worth the expense.
as for the packaging, it's always been an important aspect of the final product to me. mass-produced CDs in standard jewel cases don't seem to have much point these days. in a time when people can download anything, nothing feels like it has much substance or value. part of the reason people have turned to vinyl is the cover art. i always strive to make ours fit the project and stand out, and this will be no exception.